Asian stocks climbed, halting a two-day retreat, as Japanese exporters gained on a weaker yen and Alumina Ltd. jumped as partner Alcoa Inc. posted sales that beat estimates to start U.S. earnings season.
Alumina rose 4.6 percent in Sydney. Pesticide-maker Nufarm Ltd. rallied 6.2 percent in Sydney after Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed company, raised its profit forecast. Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. climbed more than 1 percent as the yen fell against all of its major peers.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.4 percent to 131.28 as of 6:25 p.m. Tokyo time, erasing earlier losses of as much 0.3 percent. The benchmark posted its seventh weekly advance last week, the longest winning streak since March, after the U.S. Congress approved a budget deal and Japanese shares rallied on expectations the new government would call for more stimulus.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage $1 billion at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne. “We are at a juncture with the earnings season just kicking off in North America. People will want to assess the lay of the land, in particular any forward-looking comments that companies make.”
The Nikkei 225 increased 0.7 percent. The gauge climbed 22 percent from Nov. 14 when Japanese elections were announced, driving the measure into a bull market on expectations the Liberal Democratic Party would press the Bank of Japan for more monetary easing.
The Philippine Stock Exchange Index climbed 0.7 percent to a record close. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.4 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.5 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index was little changed. South Korea’s Kospi Index lost 0.3 percent.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 14 percent in 2012 as central banks from the U.S., Europe, Japan and China took action to spur economic growth. The regional benchmark traded at 14 times estimated earnings, compared with 13.1 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and a multiple of 11.9 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Futures on the S&P 500 added 0.2 percent today. The gauge lost 0.3 percent yesterday as investors awaited earnings from Alcoa, traditionally the first company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average to post quarterly results.
Shares of Alcoa climbed in after-hours trading after the largest U.S. aluminum producer reported fourth-quarter sales of $5.9 billion, beating the $5.6 billion average of 11 estimates.
Alumina, a supplier of the material used to make aluminum, rallied 4.6 percent to a seven-month high of A$1.025 in Sydney. The company today said it got fully franked dividends of $20 million from Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals for the fourth quarter.
Nufarm, Australia’s biggest supplier of farm chemicals, advanced 6.2 percent to A$6.32 in Sydney after Monsanto boosted its full-year forecast and reported first-quarter earnings that surpassed analysts’ estimates.
Honda led Japanese exporters higher as the yen fell against all of its major counterparts on expectations the Bank of Japan will accede to government pressure to expand monetary easing. A weaker currency boosts the value of overseas earnings for Japanese companies when repatriated.
Honda, which gets about 80 percent of its sales outside of the country, rose 1.6 percent to 3,250 yen. Toyota, Japan’s biggest carmaker, gained 1.6 percent to 4,165 yen.
Chinese automakers advanced after Credit Suisse Group AG forecast demand for cars in the world’s second-largest economy will increase between 8 percent and 10 percent annually in the next three to five years.
Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., a partner of Toyota, jumped 7.4 percent to HK$7.38 in Hong Kong. Dongfeng Motor Group Co. gained 2.3 percent to HK$12.24. BYD Co., partly owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., surged 9.2 percent to $HK26 in Hong Kong.
Myer Holdings Ltd. paced a sell-off in Australian retailers, falling 2.7 percent to A$2.16 after data today showed the country’s retail sales unexpectedly fell. Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd., Australia’s largest electronics chain, lost 2.3 percent to A$1.905.
Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co., China’s second-biggest construction-equipment maker, sank 6.4 percent to HK$11.04 in Hong Kong after Ming Pao Daily newspaper said it had received an anonymous letter questioning the company’s sales.
The company issued statements yesterday saying it doesn’t exaggerate earnings and that allegations about its financial information are “false, groundless and misleading.”